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Gear Prudence: I think my story is a typical one. I went from riding around the block as a kid to leaving my bike in the shed once I learned to drive. I only took up biking again when I moved to D.C. last year. It seemed like all the “cool kids” did it, and I bought a Capital Bikeshare membership thinking that it wouldn’t be a big loss if I didn’t like it. Instead, I started to love it, and I think I’m finally ready to buy my own bike. Here’s my problem: I have no idea what kind of bike to buy. So what’s a good bike for a first-time-as-an-adult bike buyer? —Frankly, I’m Really Scared. Too Real. I Demand Examples.
Dear FIRSTRIDE: Congratulations! You’ve “graduated” from Bikeshare and are ready to take the leap into owning your first grown-up bicycle, which is a big responsibility. Do you have room in your place for it? Will you remember to walk and feed it? Wait, that’s a dog. There’s no one right answer for the exact best first bike (it really depends on you), but here are a few things to keep in mind:
Buy a bike for bicyclist that you are, not the one you want to be. Far too many people convince themselves that, even though they’ve never taken a bike more than five miles back and forth to work, the “right bike” is an exceedingly expensive carbon triathlon model replete with aero bars and clipless pedals. After all, not having the right bike was really the only thing holding you back from all those triathlons, right? (And not being able to swim, but whatever.) Think about the kind of riding you actually do and tailor your purchase accordingly.
Don’t overbuy. More expensive doesn’t mean better. Well, it does (especially in terms of components), but better isn’t always strictly necessary. You don’t want to walk out of the bike shop with total crap (and any bike shop worth its salt doesn’t sell crap), but you want to make a solid, long-lasting purchase, so focus on durability more than high-end-ness.
Don’t buy without test riding. Don’t buy blind from the internet, no matter how many positive online testimonials you read. It’s important for you to know what the bike feels like, and that means at least one (but ideally more than one) test ride. If it doesn’t feel right, then it’s not the right bike. Don’t succumb to snazzy looks or sales pressure.
It’s just your first bike. Maybe you’ll have it forever, or maybe you’ll “graduate” from this one, too. There are always more bikes in the sea (people really need to stop riding so close to the ocean), and if you make a good purchase and treat it well, there’s a healthy bike resale market waiting for you when you’re ready for a next one. —GP